03-Dec-2010, 11:33 PM
I think this would be a good case study of how structural changes can bring about desired results in public administration.
Quote:That simple verdict was part of a sweeping experiment in grass-roots democracy in rural India aimed at ensuring that the benefits of government programs for the poor actually go to the poor.
It empowers villagers to act as watchdogs and to perform “social audits” like the one that meted out quick justice to Mr. Sreekanth. Their success or failure could have broad implications for India’s quest to lift hundreds of millions of people out of poverty.
Quote:Social audits statewide have found $20 million worth of fraud over the past five years, and 4,600 officials have faced administrative or criminal charges, said V. Vasanth Kumar, the minister for rural development in Andhra Pradesh.
The results of the audits, down to the tiniest details, are available online for anyone to study. With the Indian government planning to spend a quarter of a trillion dollars to help the rural poor over the next five years, such audits will be crucial to reducing waste and fraud.
Much of that cash will go to a program created in 2005 to provide people in the countryside with 100 days of work at minimum wage on small-scale village infrastructure projects. This year, the government has budgeted $9 billion for the program, potentially ripe pickings for corrupt businessmen, politicians and bureaucrats.
To safeguard their efforts, the officials who drafted the law required the social audits, in which the beneficiaries themselves ensure that the program is run cleanly.
Villagers scour records and look for fraud, then hold public hearings. Officials like Mr. Sreekanth — whose punishment has not been determined, but who could be suspended or fired from his job or charged with a crime — are held accountable.
Quote:In Rajasthan Province, the social movement she helped found, Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan, popularly known as M.K.S.S., has conducted social audits for years. But Andhra Pradesh is the first state that has put its full political and bureaucratic weight behind them.
“It is not something being done exclusively by a people’s movement — the government has embraced it,” said Sowmya Kidambi, formerly of M.K.S.S., who now runs the social audit program in Andhra Pradesh. “It is not just lip service.”
Officials embraced the audits in part because they realized it was good politics to keep programs for the poor free from corruption. India is the world’s largest democracy, and the rural poor represent the nation’s largest pool of votes.